An American perspective on the late great Sir Clive Sinclair, from Fast Company

Liam Proven lproven at
Tue Sep 28 07:17:54 CDT 2021

On Mon, 27 Sept 2021 at 22:14, Yeechang Lee via cctech
<cctech at> wrote:
> This was true in more wealthy countries outside the US, too. Sinclair never got anywhere in Germany compared to Commodore, for example.

This may be true; I work for a German company but I've never lived
there. I know Amstrad-affiliate Schneider did well, and of course

>  The ZX81 and Spectrum (and clones) did have a presence in Spain and South America.

Indeed so, although I think more as clones than originals.

> You make it sound like the C64 failed in the UK/European market.

That was not my intention. I am telling you what _I_ felt and thought.

> For others' benefit, the C64 had about as much market share as the Spectrum in the UK (with Amstrad a very solid third place, especially considering its later start, and BBC Micro significantly behind) and beat it in Germany, Finland, and elsewhere. The C64 isn't included in the recent book _The Computers That Made Britain_ for no reason.

Sure, it did do well... but somewhat after the market was established,
and in the timeframe where kids were the main customers, wanting home
computers for games, replacing adults who wanted them for programming.

> > If you were going to spend as much as a new car on an early home
> > computer,
> If you're going to exaggerate for effect, don't exaggerate so much that your meaning is lost.

I am not.  Bear in mind that the prices and market are and were _very_
different in the USA, from where you are posting.

> > then you wanted something well-rounded: decent graphics, decent
> > sound, a decent BASIC, a usable keyboard, and maybe mass storage
> > that didn't cost as much as 2 extra cars.
> Sheesh.

I stand by it. The 1541, for example, was both overpriced and
under-performing. At school I used CBM PET drives attached over IEEE
and those were horrendously pricey.

> > Therefore things like the C64 were not appealing: terrible BASIC,
> > terribly slow disk drives which were _also_ terribly expensive.
> Disk drives were so much a non-presence in the UK home computer market until the Amiga/ST in 1985 that there is no point in mentioning them at all. (It's not like Spectrum users were enjoying disk drives while Commodore users were using cassette, after all.)

This is not true at all.

I had a 5.24" disk drive on my 48K Spectrum before the Amiga was on
retail sale in Britain. They were there, but only for serious,
hobbyist users.

If you want to say that leisure users/gamers didn't have disks, fine.
But it's an overgeneralisation to say that they were not there --
which is the very same offence for which you're accusing me.

> Most children who participated in those schoolyard disputes have long since moved on (if only to other platform wars, like Emacs/Vi, Mac/Windows/Linux, etc.). You sound like someone still embittered by C64 owners around you bragging about their superior computers.

If I am embittered it is more because of what I see as the US school
of computer design has triumphed: large, complex, general-purpose OSes
for everything, and equip the device with enough processor and storage
that it remains usable -- even if it kills battery life.
• Windows NT
• Linux
• modern UNIX in general: *BSD, macOS, etc.

In contrast, what I see as the European school prospered in the
1980s-early 1990s: small, purpose-designed OSes for each role,
allowing inexpensive computers with relatively small amounts of CPU
and storage to be powerful, capable, and competitive.

• Psion EPOC16 on the Series 3 / Workabout
• Psion EPOC32 (unrelated) on the Series 5/Series 7/netBook/MalayBook etc.
• Its descendant, Symbian, on countless Nokias, SonyEricsson etc.
• Acorn RISC OS on the Archimedes -- still around, still being
updated, & now FOSS
• Arguably Sinclair's QDOS family on QL-compatibles -- some still in
production today, and the OS is FOSS
• Perhaps Amstrad's PCW range, the last CP/M computers
• Adam Dunkels' Contiki OS

Liam Proven – Profile:
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